God Dethroned's Susan Gerl talks Passiondale

Dutch guitarist Susan Gerl take a break from Storming The Balkans to answer some questions about God Dethroned's latest release, Passiondale.

With their ninth album Passiondale on the receiving end of rave reviews across the globe, and with a European tour currently underway, Dutch metallers God Dethroned are certainly on a roll at the moment. Guitarist Susan Gerl took some time to sit down and answer some of our questions on the album and all things God Dethroned.

Passiondale is based on the World War I battles near the Belgian town of Passchendaele, where over 90,000 soldiers lost their lives. Being a bit cynical about the idea of a concept album, I was surprised to find that Passiondale was not overly long, nor filled with self-indulgent wankery. At 38 minutes, it's short, sharp and to the point, with no excess fat.

I was curious to whether length was something the band was mindful of when writing and recording. Although joining the band after the recording process for the album was complete, Susan let on that rather than trying to limit the length, one song - No Survivors - was actually written while the band was in the studio. 'In Holland we have a saying which if you were to translate it would sound like: short but powerful, which means: just sheer power, no frills; and I think we have definitely achieved that with this album.'

World War I is a topic that doesn't get as much coverage by metal bands as might be expected. According to Susan, God Dethroned guitarist and singer Henri Sattler did a lot of research on the topic when he visited former guitarist Isaac Delahaye at his home in Ypres, Belgium.

'Henri came up with this idea because he was really impressed by everything he saw in Ypres,' Susan revealed. 'Every weekend Ypres is still visited by British people who go there to pay respects to their family members who fought in WWI.'

Henri then visited museums and read books on the subject to develop the lyrics for the songs.

I also had to ask about the awesome cover artwork, which incorporates a silver eagle, crown and crosses on a blood splattered background - the work of Karl Heinz Schuster, who also did the layout for The Toxic Touch, the band's previous album. 'Henri had the idea of the eagle and crown in mind and asked Karl.... he did a really good job.'

Passiondale also has seen the return of keyboards to the God Dethroned sound, played by Danny Servaes, who last contributed to the The Grand Grimoire and Bloody Blasphemy albums. Susan agreed that the keyboards added an important element to the band's sound - but that the keyboards did not influence the writing process. Rather, 'when a song is finished, we see what parts are good and suitable to add keyboards to'.

It's been a recent trend for bands to play concept or classic albums in their entirety live - Slayer did it with Reign in Blood as early as 2004, and others more recently have been keen to jump on the bandwagon. Susan revealed that a full concert Passiondale was not on the cards - ' we play about five songs of the new album live'. With a back catalogue stretching back over nine albums, I guess that's not surprising  - there's a lot of material to fit in.

When writing questions for an email interview, it is not always known which band member will be writing the responses - and so, Susan found herself amused at being in the position of answering whether she thinks the addition of herself on guitar has improved the cohesion and live performance of the band. I think it's fair to say that she has, however - stating that 'reactions have been really positive so far and especially live, people’s reactions have been absolutely enthusiastic'. The band also apparently gets along very well. 'We all have the same views on what we want to achieve with this band, treat each other respectfully and also have a lot of fun together which is also very important if you’re going to be on the road together for that long.'

God Dethroned are currently touring Europe on the 'Storming the Balkans' tour, will do a number of summer festivals, and are then going onto a three month tour through South America, and the US. Susan pinpoints the highlight so far as the Passiondale album launch.

'The venue was nearly sold out, the crowd was absolutely great and we had an after party til 6am', she laughs. She also says the band are 'working on' coming to Australia, with early 2010 being the current estimate.

Susan falls into the forward-thinking camp when it comes to the thorny issue of digital music. 'As far as the sound quality is concerned I feel that digital music is definitely an improvement!'. She's also not against people downloading music. '...in former days people did tapetrading to copy the music they liked, so this is similar in a way, but it does have one main disadvantage compared to the good ol’ tapetrading days: the final product (a burnt CD) is nearly the same as the product you buy at the shops. Back then if you wanted to have the original LP or CD with full colour cover instead of a boring looking tape with a bad sound you nearly always bought the original LP or CD anyway, but nowadays that doesn’t happen that often anymore I guess, because people are satisfied with their copied CDs and they download and print the covers in full colour as well. What many fans don’t realise is that they are contributing to the demise of many of their favourite bands by doing this.'

This factor contributed to the decision to release a limited vinyl edition of Passiondale. 'So for us it’s really good to release an LP and also the limited edition digipack as well, so that we can offer something more special.'

God Dethroned's Passiondale is out now on Metal Blade/Riot. Read the Metal As Fuck review of God Dethroned - Passiondale here.